Is Bergerac Airport too dependent on low-cost airlines?

Ryanair could ‘just pack its bags and leave’, head of chamber of commerce is quoted as saying

Ryanair plane at  Bergerac Dordogne Périgord Airport
Bergerac Dordogne Périgord Airport claims it has a good relationship with Ryanair
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Bergerac Airport’s reliance on Ryanair has been highlighted by an admission that “if we annoy it, it could just pack its bags and leave”.

The comment came from the president of the local chamber of commerce - one of the main partners in the company that runs the airport - to regional journalists.

Referring to the departure of the low-cost firm from Bordeaux, linked to a planned rise in the fees charged to it there, Christophe Fauvel said: “It’s the confirmation that when Ryanair coughs, you’ve got to really pay attention. Because if you annoy it, it could just pack its bags and leave from one day to the next.”

Bergerac Airport is run by EGC Aéro, in which the main players are the chamber of commerce and Egis, a French consulting, engineering and services company.

The comments also follow a report by France’s state finance watchdog in 2023 into France’s mid-sized airports, including Bergerac, which was cited among eight such airports with 90% or more of commercial traffic devoted to low-cost firms. 

It said Bergerac, Brive and Limoges must compete to be able to serve incoming Britons to the area, making them “very dependent” on such companies and especially Ryanair.

Read more: Mid-sized French airports too reliant on cheap flights, report finds

However, a spokesperson for the airport told The Connexion that the recent press reports were misleading.

Ryanair announced in May it would withdraw in October from Bordeaux-Mérignac, a major hub for travellers to the south-west, due to the airport increasing its fees for airlines from November.

Bordeaux-Mérignac described the decision as the “worst case scenario”, which will result in the loss of 40 routes, 90 jobs, and 1.7 million fewer passenger trips - for an expected reduction in traffic of 25% for the airport.

Read more: Bordeaux airport: ‘Ryanair pulling out was our worst-case scenario’

Nonetheless, the airport’s decision to raise tariffs was hailed as an airport finally standing up to Ryanair by aircrew union SNPNC-FO, which said that Ryanair had been “gorging itself on colossal financial aid”.

The future of Bergerac Dordogne Périgord Airport

Even so, the loss of 40 routes to the south-west of France - many of which go to the UK - creates more uncertainty for visitors and second-home owners in the region.

This was compounded by a report in Sud Ouest on June 19 into the Bergerac Dordogne Périgord Airport, which is a vital link for the estimated 7,500 British residents of the department and their families in the UK.

“There is a dependence on Ryanair and it is a problem,” the head of the departmental tourist board, Sylvie Chevallier told Sud Ouest. “We would like more diversity, but it’s not us but the airlines who are masters of this game.”

Bordeaux-Mérignac has said it will now seek to attract a greater proportion of higher-end airlines. 

The president of the Bergerac chamber of commerce’s remarks to the newspaper painted a similarly negative picture of the airport’s relationship with Ryanair.

However, the airport’s Head of Marketing and Route Development, Emily James, told The Connexion the report was a misrepresentation of the airport’s relationship with the low-cost airline.

“We have a good relationship with Ryanair,” she said, “They are tough but courteous and we work well together.”

Like with many smaller airports, the CCI has a share in the ownership of the airport. While it appoints the management personnel, Ms James asserted “that it is not involved in day-to-day airport management”.

‘No plans to change model’

The vast majority of Bergerac’s passengers travel via low-cost airlines from the UK, with six UK routes with Ryanair and two with Jet2. British Airways also operates two routes.

For the British residents of the department, it should come as some relief that the airport’s low-cost UK flights look set to continue.

According to Ms James, at Bergerac they have a “completely different model to Bordeaux” and there are no plans to change how Bergerac functions. She did not specify in what way it is different, but the airports are not comparable in size (one having 240,000 passengers last year, the other 4.7 million).

“Our routes with Ryanair will be stable so long as people keep on coming,” she added.

As to the airport’s viability, Ms James said Bergerac would produce a new report in 2025 on the economic benefits it brings to the department and region. 

The previous report in 2014 estimated the economic benefit to be around €154m that year based on the numbers of passenger visits.

“The airport is doing really well since Covid,” she said.

The cost of the running airport was estimated at €2m a year by Sud Ouest, for around 240,000 passengers each year.

However, Nicolas Paulis­sen of airports trade body the Union des Aéroports Français, told The Connexion in 2023 that subsidised airports should not be seen as a problem.

Read more: Regional French airports under threat as auditors question value 

“It is not news to us that many airports are in deficit but many councils see it as a public service.

“Swimming pools are unprofitable and financed by pub­lic funds. Why not airports? The main thing is to run them well and try to avoid high subsidies.”